I read this book slowly at first. I mean can you imagine spending a summer playing bridge for an old man who cannot see? Sixteen year old Alton is about to get a summer job and it's not one he chose for himself. His Great-Uncle Lester, a millionaire, loves to play bridge but he's blind and he needs someone to play his cards for him. Alton's parents are determined to be at the top of the list in the old uncle's will. Now up to now, Great-Uncle Lester has always had a girl named Toni to turn his cards for him. She's rumored to be slightly crazy and diagnosed as a schizophrenic. But one day in the heat of a bridge battle, Toni made the ultimate faux pas of telling Great-Uncle Lester what card to play. No more Toni. Now, it's Alton's turn to drive Uncle Lester to his games and to play the cards the old man tells him to play. Alton has heard a lot of family lore about Toni and her family and about the caretakers who watch over Uncle Lester. They're all seen as competitors in the game of who will get Uncle Lester's money when he goes. But, as Alton gets into the bridge scene he gets to know Toni and decides he really, really likes her. Trouble is she seems to like Alton's best friend, Cliff. This is the same Cliff who already stole Alton's first love. As the bridge games roll by, Alton begins to get into the game and into the girl. Slowly, this story builds. You get past your initial feelings of who cares about how to play bridge and you really begin to connect to Alton and especially to Uncle Lester. Alton's family will remind you of the folks in charge of the juvenile detention facility in HOLES but Louis Sachar has a few more layers for you to discover and they catch you off guard. As you and Alton are both finding he has a heart the size of Texas and you're really enjoying him finding himself, you get the back story of Great Uncle Lester and the tragic love of his life. It's quite a mix to adjust to and then suddenly, a whole new window on the world opens up and you sure don't see it coming! I admit I cried and then I decided I liked the whole journey I'd just been on. This is ultimately a very tender book.
Side note: You have the option all through the book of reading sections that teach the game of bridge. There's a symbol of a whale whenever one is about to appear. You can opt in or opt out. Nice way to teach bridge to a whole new generation. 336 pages